Students learning about transportation sustainability early on.
Steve Kadel - Herald and News - Mar. 6, 2007
The all-electric and modded - modern looking - Corbin Sparrow.
One of the vehicles runs on fuel cells powered by hydrogen.
Another hybrid car runs on batteries charged by diesel fuel, and can log 70 miles to the gallon.
Those are just two of the projects completed by Oregon Institute of Technology students at the school's Oregon Renewable Energy Center.
The center was established by the state Legislature in 2001. Students not only design plans for sustainable energy projects, they go a step further and build models.
They've even found a use for OIT food service grease, turning it into biofuel. The ethanol students produce from corn and sugar costs $14.50 for ingredients needed to make 10 gallons.
Fuel at $1.45 per gallon would seem to be a bargain these days, but center director Tom Chester said it's not economically feasible, because transportation costs aren't factored in.
If the students can get the price down to 90 cents a gallon, they might have a marketable product, he said.
The Legislature charged the center with doing more than turning out engineers with alternative fuel knowledge. It's also a vehicle for teaching Oregonians about the need for alternative energy sources.
The goal is to make residents aware of the need to shift from a carbon-based energy economy to a cleaner, greener system.
“We see a role for the center to be involved helping residents of Oregon understand the possibilities and applications of renewable energy,” Chester said.
Students' accomplishments aren't limited to vehicles and biofuels.
Their projects include:
- Designing and installing a heating and cooling system in a campus building that cuts energy use by 66 percent.
- Building a library of technical information for use by OIT students and faculty.
- Charting renewable energy market development opportunities throughout the region.
Chester said there are many schools whose students study alternative energy systems. However, OIT students go the extra step to actually build functioning products.
“The goal is to demonstrate some kind of sustainability,” said Bob Rogers, the center's assistant director.